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First looks: the Auralic Aries Mini network streamer for audiophiles

By Marcus Wong - 7 Mar 2016

First looks: The Auralic Aries Mini

Why pick up a dedicated network streamer? In today’s world of multi-room audio speakers that act as both audio output device and network controller, you could easily be forgiven for not seeing the point of adding yet another device.

Well, because the Auralic Aries Mini is more than just a regular network streamer. It has Coaxial and Toslink digital audio outputs that you can plug your speakers into and a built-in storage slot that accepts any 2.5-inch hard drive or SSD. This allows you to turn it into a 'NAS' for music storage that’s directly connected to your speakers and can be controlled via an app.

Powering it all is the  ESS Sabre DAC ES9018K2M.

And that’s where the magic happens. Because the Aries Mini is powered by high-quality DAC – the ESS Sabre DAC ES9018K2M, simply plug in a pair of speakers to turn it into a wireless speaker that you can control via the Lightning DS app. It supports up to Quad-Rate DSD and DXD, and handles virtually all the audio formats out there at almost all sampling rates, including AAC, AIFF, ALAC, APE, DIFF, DSF, FLAC, MP3, OGG, WAV, WV and WMA, thanks to Auralic’s proprietary Tesla hardware platform.

The specifications? No less than a Quad-Core ARM Coretex-A9 processor running at 1GHz, 512MB DDR3 onboard memory and 4GB internal storage with ability to calculate 25,000 MIPS. The Aries Mini has 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi capabilities for a more stable connection, and there is of course Gigabit Ethernet support if you’d rather not go wireless. 

Clean and intuitive, the Lightning DS app offers an easy way to control any audio system connected to the Aries Mini.

We liked how the system interfaces with the Lightning DS app. Everything is simply laid out, much like with iTunes when it was first launched. There is direct Tidal integration (as indicated by the quaver in the cloud), and you can of course add your own music by directing the Aries Mini to either the files on a hard disk you’ve installed, or to a directory on a NAS in your network.

Songs are arranged via album, and can be sorted by genre. Clicking on an album brings up the track listing, from which you can start playing tracks. Searches happen across Tidal, the internet, and any connected drives you’ve specified, and you can even apply your usual DSP settings via the app.  Overall, it’s a simple, efficient way to get access to your music that seems to work pretty well. Apparently, if you have multiple Aries Minis in your home network, you can control them all through a single app, thus giving you multi-room audio. 

Browsing tracks is a simple affair with the app.

We listened to a recording of Simply Love by Halie Loren streamed off Tidal, and was fairly impressed by the clarity the Aries Mini was able to achieve. The vocals were nicely rendered and seemed a little on the bright side, but there was certainly good separation from the guitar accompaniment that was clearly positioned behind and slightly to the left of us. 

It's easy to add a 2.5-inch hard disk (or SSD) to the Aries Mini.

The basic ports you need to connect to most systems can be found at the rear.

Overall, we’d say the Aries Mini is a good option for those who would like to breathe new life into their existing stereo setup. The compact size means you won’t have much trouble fitting it in, and the option of adding a 2.5-inch drive means you can easily add quality wireless music streaming to your home, even if you don’t want to subscribe to Tidal.

The Aries Mini measures 13.5 x 13.5 x 2.8cm and weighs 500g without a disk drive installed. It’s available now in white and black, and retails for S$699 at Home Cinema Pit.

You can find out more and check out more options at Auralic.com.

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